Tag Archive | Josh Kun

Sonic Contact Zones: An Interview with DJs MALT and Eat Paint in Koreatown, Los Angeles

On Sunday, February 21, Atlanta-based hip-hop photographer Gunner Stahl will be DJing at a raw space being built at 4317 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles’ Koreatown as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. Red Bull suggests that many of the photographer’s artistic subjects, such as Tyler the Creator, Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, Gucci Mane, and/or The Weeknd might make guest appearances during his set. This star-studded stage with financial backing from the drink that gives you wings will stand across the street from Vilma’s Thrift Store, DolEx Dollar Express, Gina’s Beauty Salon, and Botanica Y Joyeria El Milagro. Tickets are a modest $15. At first glance, the location choice might seem odd; why not the legendary Wiltern Theater just down the street on Western? Or why not set up a stage inside MacArthur Park? Those are definitely options, and many performers do grace the stage of The Wiltern for fans in Koreatown and the greater Los Angeles area. However, for those who know Los Angeles’ Koreatown gets down, discounted snacks and pedicures a stone skip away from millionaires sounds just about right.

Figuring out these connections between sound, capital, culture, ethnicity, and art in LA’s Koreatown has been a popular pursuit in recent years. The year was 2014. The place was The Park Plaza Hotel on the outskirts of Los Angeles’ Koreatown. The people performing were TOKiMONSTA (Jennifer Lee), Far East Movement (Kevin Nishimura, James Roh, Jae Choung, and Virman Coquia), Dumbfoundead (Jonathan Park), and others. The reporter was Erik Kristman for Vice Media’s Thump. In the article titled “SPAM N EGGS Festival Was a Window to LA’s Multiculturalist Underground Movement,” Kristman proclaims: “Koreatown’s spectrum of sound, a culture hidden beneath its mid-Wilshire scenery, is no doubt one of the few remaining jewels of the LA underground.”

In Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital (1996), Sarah Thornton writes that DJs “play a key role in the enculturation of records for dancing, sometimes as an artist but always as a representative and respondent to the crowd. By orchestrating the event and anchoring the music in a particular place, the DJ became a guarantor of subcultural authenticity” (60). Asian American DJs performed in Koreatown, so the electronic music and hip hop they mixed was enculturated not only with a Los Angeles neighborhood flair but also with an ethnic twist.

Park Plaza Hotel, Taken by Flickr User Cathy Cole (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Park Plaza Hotel, now The MacArthur, has its own important history as a venue as well. Built in the 1920s by prominent Los Angeles-based architect Claud Beelman, the building has hosted the racially exclusive Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, night clubs such as Power Tools with attendees such as Andy Warhol, and has been a site of numerous films and music videos such as Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” (2017). It survived the demolishing of similar Art Deco buildings during the 1980s. It survived the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the acquittal of four police officers who beat Rodney King and the killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins by Soon Ja Du, the Korean-born convenience store owner of Empire Liquor on 91st Street and Figueroa Avenue. It survived, if not flourished, in the subsequent gentrification of the Wilshire Center area with eager real estate agents and endowed buyers who are made nostalgic by the building’s Art Deco façade. The right DJs playing in a prime spot such as The MacArthur could definitely guarantee a level of Los Angeles subcultural authenticity for attendees. But what kind of authentic? And was that something anyone was trying to go for?

Kristman’s caricaturization of Koreatown certainly reveals how this visage of authenticity affected him. In his words, Koreatown is a diamond waiting to be mined. Koreatown is hidden. Koreatown’s “spectrum of sound” takes the singular verb “is,” meaning it functions as a unified, indistinguishable whole. Kristman has “no doubt” about his analysis of his authentic trip to Koreatown.

The openers of Spam N Eggs that night were two techno DJs and producers named MALT (Andrew Seo) and Eat Paint (Vince Fierro). Together, they run the Los Angeles-based Leisure Sports Records. We met at the Seoul-based coffeehouse Caffé Bene in Los Angeles to share misugaru lattes and talk about Kristman’s statement.

“I definitely wouldn’t call ‘Koreatown’ very underground,” says Vince. “It’s certainly become a new social center to LA’s night life, and there was a time when there was a feeling of great potential for a solid underground movement. But sadly, there have not been any significantly artistic home-grown breakthroughs coming from K-Town.”

Vince continues: “Rather, it serves as a new landing pad for the very commercialized Korean hip-hop and EDM cultures in Los Angeles. These genres dominate the K-Town club landscape. Unfortunately [pause] to me, anyway [pause] it’s success not won with any kind of daring artistry or underground legitimacy but rather with familiar aesthetics and neon lights.”

“[Los Angeles] helps them, too,” adds Andrew. “They’ll close off streets and bring in vendors because it gets people out spending money. A lot of the Korean stars come out for these events, but the thing is [pause] what kinds of people are these events attracting? Obviously, Koreans, or people that are fans of Korean music. I think Korean people here have a lot of pride, and they see that there is a rise in the culture and the area’s popularity and they’re jumping on that. They’re trying to make it bigger and better. If you walk around Koreatown, you’ll see gentrification happening everywhere.” He references the Wilshire Grand Center, the Hanjin Group-owned skyscraper that stands taller than any other west of the Mississippi, and its surroundings as evidence.

Urban studies carried out by Kyonghwan Park and Youngmin Lee, Kyeyoung Park and Jessica Kim, and others on Koreatown’s fraught relationship with surges of capital have made similar acknowledgments in wonderful detail. These surges are not evenly distributed among clubs; there are many more “secret” dimly-lit rave spots that pop up throughout the district than there are widely advertised above-ground clubs in Koreatown. Even relatively established clubs such as Union at 4067 West Pico Boulevard or Feria at 682 Irolo Street were not glamorous (and both have closed since the time this recent interview was conducted); they are surrounded by predatory lending offices and abandoned shops. Andrew gave me the address of an upcoming rave spot in Koreatown; it was basically under an apartment complex.

“I think they just want to bring what they build in Korea over here because that’s how they do it over there,” adds Andrew. “They just have apartments and then clubs and restaurants underneath or underground. It’s kind of like how Tokyo is.”

If this “hidden, underground” Koreatown culture does exist, as Kristman suggests, then finding it requires ignoring the flashing lights of Spam N Eggs and seeking out the darker warehouse raves. It also requires a level of suspended disbelief that Koreatown is untouched by hipster gentrification and instead an embracing of a subcultural essence that goes beyond city architecture and real estate. The physical space of sections of Koreatown might not be as important as the potential for the production of space in terms of creating sonic contact zones.

sign in Koreatown, Los Angeles by Flickr User vince Lammin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The zones created by artists such as Malt and Eat Paint are mobile and fleeting as they pop up whenever and wherever these DJs perform. Like Josh Kun famously put forward in his book Audiotopia: Music, Race, and America (2005), the music these musicians produce and mix has the ability to create audiotopias “of cultural counter that may not be physical places but nevertheless exist in their own auditory some-where” (2-3). Electronic music, and perhaps similarly this “jewel-like” spectrum of Koreatown sound, has the ability to implant identity into the buildings and surrounding neighborhoods. What once was a Mexican restaurant and is now abandoned becomes a pulsating techno club attracting those Angelenos who shy away from the more commercial scenes.

Perhaps Kristman was focusing more on the Asian American DJs themselves than the types of music they were spinning or The Park Plaza Hotel and its situation in Koreatown. As Asian Americans, these DJs represent and are representative of an authentic subculture to which Kristman bears witness. However, many artists shy away from or sometimes outright deny any racial or ethnic connections being made between their art and their identities. Andrew and Vince shared personal and well-known examples of ambivalent attitudes toward such labeling. Jason Chung, also known as Nosaj Thing, is one of the best-booked electronic performers today, flying around the world sponsored by Adidas or playing huge shows with Flying Lotus. Vince, who worked very closely with Jason just as his career was taking off, reflects on Nosaj’s rise: “Everyone here in K-Town thinks Nosaj Thing is a god. But if you ask him about his pride in being Korean, he won’t say anything.”

Andrew adds: “It’s just like how Qbert is for the Filipino community – that’s who Nosaj Thing is for Koreans today. When I went to South Korea to perform, they would ask me how I was affiliated with him, although I’m not really. South Koreans are amazed to see a Korean guy make it in the music industry in America with a sense of originality, not having to sell out.”

Both Andrew and Vince shift the conversation suddenly to Keith Ape and his debut as a trap music artist. Keith Ape’s success was due in part to spectacle (as the genre demands), to the power of hallyu promotion, but more so to simple respect from established artists such as Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame. In a Noisey documentary about his first U.S. performance at South by Southwest (SXSW) in 2015, Keith Ape is translated as saying: “You know, I’m Asian. And I heard stories of how Asians are still looked at as outsiders in the States. And I heard it’s even worse when it comes down to hip-hop.”

While his successful Atlanta trap-style set at SXSW ultimately assuaged those fears of acceptance, for many beginning and working Asian American DJs and performers, this perceived and sometimes enforced musical barrier is daunting. While Andrew seemed to have his criticisms about how Korean promoters of Korean artists seem to be strictly focused on the commercial payoff of such events, he did not condemn their tapping into the United States market. Furthermore, he never mentioned that performing in the electronic music genre was either assisted or hindered by his ethnicity. Rather, much like Nosaj Thing, Malt lets the music do its work and create an audiotopia in which race and ethnicity are not under the spotlight. Literally, most of the shows Malt performs at do not feature the performer; the DJ is often in the dark, putting the focus almost exclusively on the music.

MALT, courtesy of Leisure Sports Records

Vince adds: “Korean American artists like Nosaj Thing and TOKiMONSTA and David Choe – all these people are doing their own thing. They’ve got these ‘don’t see me as Asian’ mottos, these ‘just think I’m dope’ vibes.”

Instead of searching for authenticity in the racial or ethnic identities of performers, Andrew is more interested in breaking stereotypes about the dangers associated with techno music, raves, and drug use. Andrew concludes: “I think first impressions are very, very important to Korean people. Looks are everything. South Korea is like the biggest plastic surgery country in the world. I went to Korea to visit my grandma, who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and all she would ask me was like, ‘Are you eating well? Look at your hair!’ Just purely about my looks. I was telling her, ‘Grandma! I run a label back in LA! I’m trying to be a musician!’ At our events, random Korean people walk by, they’ll come in for five seconds, listen to the music, and label it as ‘drug music,’ like something you listen to when you’re messed up. The same thing could be said about trap or EDM, right? But they don’t associate it with that. Hopefully, if the right timing comes, we can change that somehow.”

Featured Image: TOKiMONSTA by Twitter User Henry Faber, 2011 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Shawn Higgins is the Academic Coordinator of the Undergraduate Bridge Program at Temple University’s Japan campus. His latest publication is “Orientalist Soundscapes, Barred Zones, and Irving Berlin’s China,” coming out in the 2018 volume of Chinese America: History and Perspectives.

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On Whiteness and Sound Studies

white noise

World Listening Month3This is the first post in Sounding Out!’s 4th annual July forum on listening in observation of World Listening Day on July 18th, 2015.  World Listening Day is a time to think about the impacts we have on our auditory environments and, in turn, their effects on us.  For Sounding Out! World Listening Day necessitates discussions of the politics of listening and listening as a political act, beginning this year with Gustavus Stadler’s timely provocation.  –Editor-in-Chief JS

Many amusing incidents attend the exhibition of the Edison phonograph and graphophone, especially in the South, where a negro can be frightened to death almost by a ‘talking machine.’ Western Electrician May 11, 1889, (255).

What does an ever-nearer, ever-louder police siren sound like in an urban neighborhood, depending on the listener’s racial identity? Rescue or invasion? Impending succor or potential violence? These dichotomies are perhaps overly neat, divorced as they are from context. Nonetheless, contemplating them offers one charged example of how race shapes listening—and hence, some would say, sound itself—in American cities and all over the world. Indeed, in the past year, what Jennifer Stoever calls the “sonic color line” has become newly audible to many white Americans with the attention the #blacklivesmatter movement has drawn to police violence perpetrated routinely against people of color.

"Sheet music 'Coon Coon Coon' from 1901" via Wikimedia, public domain

“Sheet music ‘Coon Coon Coon’ from 1901” via Wikimedia, public domain

Racialized differences in listening have a history, of course. Consider the early decades of the phonograph, which coincided with the collapse of Reconstruction and the consolidation of Jim Crow laws (with the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval). At first, these historical phenomena might seem wholly discrete. But in fact, white supremacy provided the fuel for many early commercial phonographic recordings, including not only ethnic humor and “coon songs” but a form of “descriptive specialty”—the period name for spoken-word recordings about news events and slices of life—that reenacted the lynchings of black men. These lynching recordings, as I argued in “Never Heard Such a Thing,” an essay published in Social Text five years ago, appear to have been part of the same overall entertainment market as the ones lampooning foreign accents and “negro dialect”; that is, they were all meant to exhibit the wonders of the new sound reproduction to Americans on street corners, at country fairs, and in other public venues.

Thus, experiencing modernity as wondrous, by means of such world-rattling phenomena as the disembodiment of the voice, was an implicitly white experience. In early encounters with the phonograph, black listeners were frequently reminded that the marvels of modernity were not designed for them, and in certain cases were expressly designed to announce this exclusion, as the epigraph to this post makes brutally evident. For those who heard the lynching recordings, this new technology became another site at which they were reminded of the potential price of challenging the racist presumptions that underwrote this modernity. Of course, not all black (or white) listeners heard the same sounds or heard them the same way. But the overarching context coloring these early encounters with the mechanical reproduction of sound was that of deeply entrenched, aggressive, white supremacist racism.

"66 West 12th Street, New School entrance" by Wikimedia user Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0

“66 West 12th Street, New School entrance” by Wikimedia user Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0

The recent Sonic Shadows symposium at The New School offered me an opportunity to come back to “Never Heard Such a Thing” at a time when the field of sound studies has grown more prominent and coherent—arguably, more of an institutionally recognizable “field” than ever before. In the past three years, at least three major reference/textbook-style publications have appeared containing both “classic” essays and newer writing from the recent flowering of work on sound, all of them formidable and erudite, all of great benefit for those of us who teach classes about sound: The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies (2012), edited by Karen Bijsterveld and Trevor Pinch; The Sound Studies Reader (2013), edited by Jonathan Sterne; and Keywords in Sound (2015), edited by David Novak and Matt Sakakeeny. From a variety of disciplinary perspectives, these collections bring new heft to the analysis of sound and sound culture.

I’m struck, however, by the relative absence of a certain strain of work in these volumes—an approach that is difficult to characterize but that is probably best approximated by the term “American Studies.” Over the past two decades, this field has emerged as an especially vibrant site for the sustained, nuanced exploration of forms of social difference, race in particular. Some of the most exciting sound-focused work that I know of arising from this general direction includes: Stoever’s trailblazing account of sound’s role in racial formation in the U.S.; Fred Moten’s enormously influential remix of radical black aesthetics, largely focused on music but including broader sonic phenomena like the scream of Frederick Douglass’s Aunt Hester; Bryan Wagner’s work on the role of racial violence in the “coon songs” written and recorded by George W. Johnson, widely considered the first black phonographic artist; Dolores Inés Casillas’s explication of Spanish-language radio’s tactical sonic coding at the Mexican border; Derek Vaillant’s work on racial formation and Chicago radio in the 1920s and 30s. I was surprised to see none of these authors included in any of the new reference works; indeed, with the exception of one reference in The Sound Studies Reader to Moten’s work (in an essay not concerned with race), none is cited. The new(ish) American Studies provided the bedrock of two sound-focused special issues of journals: American Quarterly’s “Sound Clash: Listening to American Studies,” edited by Kara Keeling and Josh Kun, and Social Text’s “The Politics of Recorded Sound,” edited by me. Many of the authors of the essays in these special issues hold expertise in the history and politics of difference, and scholarship on those issues drives their work on sound. None of them, other than Mara Mills, is among the contributors to the new reference works. Aside from Mills’s contributions and a couple of bibliographic nods in the introduction, these journal issues play no role in the analytical work collected in the volumes.

"Blank pages intentionally, end of book" by Wikimedia user Brian 0918, CC BY-SA 3.0

“Blank pages intentionally, end of book” by Wikimedia user Brian 0918, CC BY-SA 3.0

The three new collections address the relationship between sound, listening, and specific forms of social difference to varying degrees. All three of the books contain excerpts from Mara Mills’ excellent work on the centrality of deafness to the development of sound technology. The Sound Studies Reader, in particular, contains a small array of pieces that focus on disability, gender and race; in attending to race, specifically, Sterne shrewdly includes an excerpt from Franz Fanon’s A Dying Colonialism, as well as essays on black music by authors likely unfamiliar to many American readers. The Oxford Handbook’s sole piece addressing race is a contribution on racial authenticity in hip-hop. It’s a strong essay in itself. But appearing in this time and space of field-articulation, its strength is undermined by its isolation, and its distance from any deeper analysis of race’s role in sound than what seems to be, across all three volumes, at best, a liberal politics of representation or “inclusion.” Encountering the three books at once, I found it hard not to hear the implicit message that no sound-related topics other than black music have anything to do with race. At the same time, the mere inclusion of work on black music in these books, without any larger theory of race and sound or wider critical framing, risks reproducing the dubious politics of white Euro-Americans’ long historical fascination with black voices.

What I would like to hear more audibly in our field—what I want all of us to work to make more prominent and more possible—is scholarship that explicitly confronts, and broadcasts, the underlying whiteness of the field, and of the generic terms that provide so much currency in it: terms like “the listener,” “the body,” “the ear,” and so on. This work does exist. I believe it should be aggressively encouraged and pursued by the most influential figures in sound studies, regardless of their disciplinary background. Yes, work in these volumes is useful for this project; Novak and Sakakeeny seem to be making this point in their Keywords introduction when they write:

While many keyword entries productively reference sonic identities linked to socially constructed categories of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, citizenship, and personhood, our project does not explicitly foreground those modalities of social difference. Rather, in curating a conceptual lexicon for a particular field, we have kept sound at the center of analysis, arriving at other points from the terminologies of sound, and not the reverse. (8)

I would agree there are important ways of exploring sound and listening that need to be sharpened in ways that extended discussion of race, gender, class, or sexuality will not help with. But this doesn’t mean that work that doesn’t consider such categories is somehow really about sound in a way that the work does take them up isn’t, any more than a white middle-class person who hears a police siren can really hear what it sounds like while a black person’s perception of the sound is inaccurate because burdened (read: biased) by the weight of history and politics.

"Pointy Rays of Justice" by Flickr user Christopher Sebela, CC BY-NC 2.0

“Pointy Rays of Justice” by Flickr user Christopher Sebela, CC BY-NC 2.0

In a recent Twitter conversation with me, the philosopher Robin James made the canny point that whiteness, masquerading as lack of bias, can operate to guarantee the coherence and legibility of a field in formation. James’s trenchant insight reminds me of cultural theorist Kandice Chuh’s recent work on “aboutness” in “It’s Not About Anything,” from Social Text (Winter 2014) and knowledge formation in the contemporary academy. Focus on what the object of analysis in a field is, on what work in a field is about, Chuh argues, is “often conducted as a way of avoiding engagement with ‘difference,’ and especially with racialized difference.”

I would like us to explore alternatives to the assumption that we have to figure out how to talk about sound before we can talk about how race is indelibly shaping how we think about sound; I want more avenues opened, by the most powerful voices in the field, for work acknowledging that our understanding of sound is always conducted, and has always been conducted, from within history, as lived through categories like race.

The cultivation of such openings also requires that we acknowledge the overwhelming whiteness of scholars in the field, especially outside of work on music. If you’re concerned by this situation, and have the opportunity to do editorial work, one way to work to change it is by making a broader range of work in the field more inviting to people who make the stakes of racial politics critical to their scholarship and careers. As I’ve noted, there are people out there doing such work; indeed, Sounding Out! has continually cultivated and hosted it, with far more editorial care and advisement than one generally encounters in blogs (at least in my experience), over the course of its five years. But if the field remains fixated on sound as a category that exists in itself, outside of its perception by specifically marked subjects and bodies within history, no such change is likely to occur. Perhaps we will simply resign ourselves to having two (or more) isolated tracks of sound studies, or perhaps some of us will have to reevaluate whether we’re able to teach what we think is important to teach while working under its rubric.

Thanks to Robin James, Julie Beth Napolin, Jennifer Stoever, and David Suisman for their ideas and feedback.

Gustavus Stadler teaches English and American Studies at Haverford College. He is the author of Troubling Minds: The Cultural Politics of Genius in the U. S.1840-1890 (U of Minn Press, 2006).  His 2010 edited special issue of Social Text on “The Politics of Recorded Sound” was named a finalist for a prize in the category of “General History” by the Association of Recorded Sound Collections. He is the recipient of the 10th Annual Woody Guthrie fellowship! This fellowship will support research for his book-in-progress, Woody Guthrie and the Intimate Life of the Left.

 

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Soundscapes of Narco Silence

Journalists Protest against rising violence during march in Mexico City, Courtesy of the Knight Foundation

Journalists protest in silent march in Mexico City, Courtesy of the Knight Foundation

Since the drug war began, the lives of approximately 95,000 people have been claimed, with an estimated total of 26,000 disappearances (“Continued Humanitarian Crisis at the Border” June 2013 Report). At the University of Texas, Pan American – an institution located 25 miles north of Reynosa, Mexico (a Mexican city that has been hard hit by drug violence in recent years) – I teach students who have been dramatically impacted by drug war violence.  Many have close relatives affected or hear horrific stories of those who have been kidnapped by the cartels; many fear traveling to Mexico to visit loved ones as a result and, in some cases, they report having relatives involved in the drug cartel business. Dinorah Guerra, psychotherapist and head of the Red Cross in Reynosa, describes the devastating psychological and physical toll: “There is a huge risk for people’s self esteem. They cannot speak about what they have seen or what they have heard. [They] lose [themselves] and lose [their] identity” (qtd. in Pehhaul 2010).

I name the space of the drug war and its resulting terror in the U.S.-Mexico border the “soundscape of narco silence.” This soundscape includes death and intimidation, from the brutal killings of news reporters by cartel members to the decapitation of citizen-activists who use online media to alert communities of narco checkpoints. It also consists of those powerful acts that call attention to silence as a tactic of terror. The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, for instance, brought together tens of thousands of people in Mexico to speak out against drug violence through silent marches. Cultural productions, such as narcocorridos, or contemporary drug ballads that document the cross-border drug economy, also become part of the soundscape. The narcocorridos function as a powerful critical response to silence and fear because they enable those in Mexican society, as Jorge Castañeda, author of El Narco: La Guerra Falllida, explains, “to come to terms with the world around them, and drug violence is a big part of that world. The songs are born out of a traditional Mexican cynicism: This is our reality, we’ve gotten used to it” (Qtd. in Josh Kun 2010).

In this blog post, I focus on the role of U.S. Latina/o theater produced in the South Texas border region as it responds to the soundscape of narco silence. Building on David W. Samuels, Louis Meintjes, Ana Maria Ochoa, and Thomas Porcello’s definition of “soundscapes” in “Soundscapes: Towards a Sounded Anthropology” as “the material spaces of performance and ceremony that are used or constructed for the purpose of propagating sound” (330), I suggest that soundscapes of silence in theater function as material spaces of performance that focus the public’s attention on silence – with the intent of intervening in acts that propagate silence and fear. Soundscapes of narco silence are characterized not only by violence and terror, but by cultural productions that function as forms of critical resistance – those works that focus the publics’ attention on the economy of silence and fear that fuels the drug war, and in the process, enable communities to cope with narco violence.

Journalists Protest against rising violence during march in Mexico City

Journalists protest in silent march in Mexico City, Courtesy of the Knight Foundation

To closely listen to the soundscape of narco silence, I engage with the play script and production of Tanya Saracho’s play El Nogalar at South Texas College Theatre (STC) under the direction of Joel Jason Rodriguez in McAllen, Texas in June 2013. The play was first produced at the Goodman Theater in Chicago in April 2011, with a West Coast premiere at the Fountain Theater in Los Angeles in January 2012. I critically analyze the STC Theatre production’s incorporation of a multi-genre soundtrack that included narcocorridos, rancheras, and nortec (norteño + techno). I argue that this soundtrack focused audiences’ attention not only on the devastating effects of silence, but also the function of silence as a form of capital for those most excluded in society. I also offer a brief critical listening of the script’s rendering of silence through character dialogue and stage directions.

El Nogalar tells the story of an upper-class Mexican family comprised of three generations of women (Maité, Valeria, and Anita) whose land and home in the fictionalized estate of Los Nogales in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and its adjacent nogalar (pecan orchard), are under threat by the maña (drug cartels) moving into the region. The play focuses on the women’s responses to the drug war economy as a result of their different relationships to home (both their estate and the space of Mexico). It also centers the experiences of Dunia, their maid, and López, a former field worker who now works for the maña.

STC Theater Production of El Nogalar. Photo Credit: Miguel Salazar

STC Theater Production of El Nogalar. Photo Credit: Miguel Salazar

Cecilia Ballí, in her article “Calderón’s War: The Gruesome Legacy of Mexico’s Antidrug Campaign,” explains the particular circumstances of marginalized men in this society: “The worst casualties of this ‘civil war’ were the estimated 7 million young men to whom society had closed all doors, leaving them the options of joining a drug gang or of enlisting in the military, both of which assured imprisonment of death” (January 2012, 48). With the characters López and Dunia, the play asks audiences then to listen to the impact of the drug war on the most vulnerable populations in Mexico and the US-Mexico border region.

The play script conveys how “narco silence” can be used by those who either seek to preserve traditional class hierarchies (the story of the matriarch Maité) or to survive and profit in the new drug economy (the story of López). “Narco silence,” a term coined by reporter Jonathan Gibler in his book To Die in Mexico, refers to “not the mere absence of talking, but rather the practice of not saying anything. You may talk as much as you like, as long as you avoid the facts. Newspaper headlines announce the daily death toll, but the articles will not tell you anything about who the dead were, who might have killed them or why. No detailed descriptions based on witness testimony. No investigation” (2011, 23). In an early exchange between López and Dunia, López defends “narco silence” as a strategy of survival:

STC Theater Production of El Nogalar. Photo Credit: Miguel Salazar

STC Theater Production of El Nogalar. Photo Credit: Miguel Salazar

DUNIA: Why are you the only one they leave alone, Memo?

LÓPEZ:….

DUNIA: All the men your age. Killed. Why Memo? (Beat).

LÓPEZ: Because I know when to keep my mouth shut which is not something I can say for you….

DUNIA: So that’s all it takes to be best of friends with the Maña? That doesn’t seem so hard to do? (American Theatre Magazine July/August 2011, 74).

Later in the play, Dunia, heeding López’s advice, offers a powerful observation of how “narco silence” enables her community to cope with death: “We all just walk around like we’re a movie on mute. You can see people’s mouths moving but all you hear is the static (my italics)” (American Theatre Magazine July/August 2011, 73-74).

The STC Theatre production enhanced the script’s soundscape of narco silence through its sound design, with a soundtrack that included rancheras, narcocorridos, norteño and nortec. This music provided audiences with a connection to the world of Los Nogales and captured each character’s process of coping with narco violence. For example, Maité’s soundtrack consists of several rancheras, such as Lola Beltran singing “Los Laureles” and Chavela Vargas’s powerful rendition of “Que te vaya Bonito.” Beltran’s “Los Laureles” – a cancion ranchera that includes Beltran’s powerful female vocals and mariachi orchestra instrumentation – invites audiences to hear Maité’s nostalgia and desire for an idealized Mexican society and her wish to preserve traditional class hierarchies.

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Vargas’s powerful rendition of “Que te vaya Bonito” captures Maite’s pain and suffering as she loses her home to the cartels.  In Vargas’s version of “Que te Vaya Bonito” – a song about love and abandonment – audiences hear Vargas’s choking and sobbing voice, accompanied by a single guitar.

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Vargas’s voice conveys, what Lorena Alvarado powerfully argues, is “the body’s dilemma between the hysteria of sobbing and the intelligibility of words, between resignation and retribution” (2010, 4). Vargas’s powerful singing also conveys, as Alvarado further describes, “un nudo en la garganta,” a common expression in Spanish that describes “the knot in the throat, when one cannot speak because words will not come out, but the desperate, or quiet, breath of tears” (Alvarado 2010, 5).

To sonically register the drug cartel economy and lifestyle underlying the “new” Los Nogales, the soundtrack also included narcocorridos. The first sounds we hear in the play are from the narcocorrido “El Carril Número Tres” – which includes two acoustic guitars and an electric bass – by Los Cuates de Sinaloa.

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“El Carril Número Tres” – tells the story of a secret “lane number three” that allows a Mexican drug lord to freely go back and forth between the US and Mexico because he makes a deal with the CIA and DEA. With this focus on the US government’s involvement in the drug trade, the song centers how silences north of the US-Mexico border have perpetuated drug violence.

The music also included nortec, with songs by the Mexican Institute of Sound, particularly the track “Mexico,” which is a critique of the Mexican government’s complicity with the narcos.

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With “Mexico,” audiences hear a fusion of norteño, electronic, and hip-hop with lyrics that use the symbols of Mexican national identity and culture to focus the public’s attention on violence and terror. With the lyrics “green like weed, white like cocaine, red your blood” (referencing the Mexican flag) and “at the sound of the roar of the cannon” (alluding to the national anthem), the song powerfully invokes the visual and sonic soundscape of violence that terrorize Mexican residents. With this charged critique of government corruption, “Mexico” momentarily interrupts the soundscape of narco silence rendered in the play script and rest of the soundtrack.

Ultimately, the production’s combination of rancheras, narcocorridos, and nortec captured the class tensions in Mexican society and emphasized the play’s critique of class structures that have enabled drug war violence to persist. With this range of music, the director explains he wanted to “maneuver between the [various] aspects of [the story]: the nostalgia, the corridos, the narcocorridos, and also this fusion of saying ‘we want something more,’ and so that was the whole aspect of it; the blending of the old, the new, and what the present is” (Interview with author July 2013).

The production also deliberately incorporated the sound of silence, particularly in the final scene. By the end, López buys the Los Nogales estate, thereby increasing his class status and social power. Saracho’s stage directions in this final moment indicate “an interpretive sound of trees falling. Now don’t go cueing chainsaws because it’s not literal. Just make me feel trees are falling. Along with the upper class” (87). The play’s reference to the staging of “an interpretive sound of trees falling” brings to mind the philosophical question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” We might then interpret the final sounds of El Nogalar as inviting audiences to listen attentively to the soundscape of narco silence, implicating audiences as social actors in the politics of the drug war that continue to devastate Mexican society.

Featured Image: Journalists Protest against rising violence during march in Mexico, Courtesy of the Knight Foundation

Marci R. McMahon received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California with affiliations in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity. She is an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Pan American, where she teaches Chicana/o literature and cultural studies, gender studies, and theater and performance in the Departments of English and Mexican American Studies. She is the author of  Domestic Negotiations: Gender, Nation, and Self-Fashioning in US Mexicana and Chicana Literature and Art published by Rutgers University Press’ Series Latinidad: Transnational Cultures in the United States (May 2013). Her essays on Chicana literature and cultural studies have been published in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies; Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of MALCS; and Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies. Her second book project, Sounding Latina/o Studies: Staging Listening in US Latina/o Theater explores how contemporary Latina/o drama uses vocal bodies and sound to engage audiences with recurring debates about nationhood, immigration, and gender.


tape reel

REWIND! . . .If you liked this post, you may also dig:

Listening to the Border: “’2487’: Giving Voice in Diaspora” and the Sound Art of Luz María Sánchez–D. Ines Casillas

Quebec’s #casseroles: on participation, percussion and protest–Jonathan Sterne

Deejaying her Listening: Learning through Life Stories of Human Rights Violations— Emmanuelle Sonntag and Bronwen Low

Sound at ASA 2012

This year, #ASA2012 is being held in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Puerto Rico Convention Center from November 15-18.  San Juan provides a historic opportunity for the interdisciplinary scholars working under the banner of “American Studies” to ponder the theme, “Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Past, Present, and Future,” from a site that has been an “unincorporated territory” of the United States since it was seized from Spain (its former imperial occupiers) after the Spanish American War in 1898.  According to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Insular Cases an “unincorporated territory” is “a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States.” Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States since 1917, despite not having voting representatives in Washington D.C. and being unable to vote in mainland presidential elections.  Just a few days ago, Puerto Ricans voted on yet another referendum to become a state—there have been 3 such votes, one in 1967, 1993, and 1998, but this is the first where statehood won a majority of the votes—an issue that both U.S. presidential candidates were all but silent on in their recent campaigns.  This vote suggests a sea change in Puerto Rican-U.S. relations–what an exciting time to hold ASA in San Juan!–and I’d also like to think this particular meeting portends an exciting shift in sound studies as well.

For one thing, sound studies scholars in particular will be discussing power and imperialism loudly and clearly at this meeting. Sounding Out!’s Managing Editor, Liana Silva, will be participating in a roundtable at 8:00 a.m Sunday morning entitled “Doing Disciplinarity: Puerto Rican Studies is/as/with American Studies” where she, along with Marta S. Rivera Monclova (Framingham State College), Leonardo L. Flores Feliciano (University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez), and Sara Poggio (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) will discuss the fraught relationship between the two fields of study, particularly in relation to America’s imperial history.

And then, the fully signed-sealed-and delivered ASA Sound Studies Caucus hosts two official panels that explicitly consider the politics of sound and listening.  The first is on on Friday from 4:00-5:45: Resisting Silences: Re-sounding Race, Gender, and Empire” chaired by Sherrie Tucker (University of Kansas) and featuring the research of Marci McMahon (University of Texas, Pan American), Genevieve Yue (University of Southern California and yours truly, Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman (SUNY Binghamton); and the second on Saturday from 4:00-5:45: “Sound and the State: The Politics of Acoustic Power” chaired by Jonathan Sterne (McGill University) and featuring the research of David Suisman (University of Delaware) and Peter Tschirhart (University of Virginia) with a comment by Mara Mills (New York University).   From the racial dynamics of postwar New York City’s noise laws to “Noise Exposure Maps,” Sonic Booms to the technics of female silence, ASA’s sound studies scholars continue the sociopolitical interventions of last year’s “Sound Clash: Listening to America Studies” special issue of American Quarterly.  This issue, edited by Josh Kun and Kara Keeling, explicitly focused on issues of race, gender, class sexuality, and nation (by the way, if you misplaced your copy, Johns Hopkins press has just released the issue in book volume form).

The Sound Studies Caucus also continues its very important organizational role this year by bringing scholars together for its second annual Sound Studies Caucus Meet-and-Greet, which will be co-hosted by none other than Sounding Out! !!! We have been thrilled to work with co-organizers Inés Casillas (UCSB), Roshanak Kheshti (UCSD) and Deb Vargas (UCR) to plan a get together at the District Bar of the nearby Sheraton (200 Convention Way, 787-993-3500, Map) where we will solicit volunteers and chat about the activities of the caucus this year and next.  Sounding Out! will be officially welcoming the members of its new advisory board at the meet-and-greet, as well as sharing details about current and future Calls for Posts, and pumping up the crowd for what’s ahead in the blog for 2013.  If you are in San Juan for the conference, please join us!

“Grupo Mania and My Puerto Rican Flag,” by Flickr User Photo Prodigy

Overall, while sound studies work is somewhat lighter than in years past—a trend I also noted at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies meeting earlier this year—the research on sound, listening, and aurality at this year’s #ASA2012 is, more than ever before, focused on questions of race, gender, and sexuality in ways that, as Keeling and Kun stated in their introduction to Sound Clash: “can enable an interdisciplinary American studies in which knowledges and insights that have not been perceptible to our dominant intellectual paradigms might be heard or heard anew” (453).  I am particularly enthused about what promises to be excellent new research in African American Studies—especially the panels “Ask Your Mama: The Sound(ed) Poetics and Politics of Black Feminist Internationalism” (Saturday, 12:00-1:45) andBlackness and the Sacred Performative” (Thursday 4:00-5:45, featuring SO! writer Ashon Crawley [Duke]—and Chican@/Latino Studies—notably roundtables on The Talking Cure for Empire? Oral History and Testimonio in the Twenty-first Century” (Friday, 10:00-11:45) and “Subjectivity and Sound: Rethinking Genre in Chicano/a Music” (Friday, 2:00-3:45).  There are also multiple panels that elicit transnational conversations about audio culture—Resisting Silences: Re-sounding Race, Gender, and Empire” (Friday 4:00-5:45) and “Jazz and the Voices of Empire and Resistance” in particular (Saturday, 10:00-11:45)—and enable transmedia comparisons—especially “Terrains of Modernity, Aural Research, and Critique” (Sunday, 2:00-3:45).

Whereas the downturn in sound studies work at SCMS 2012 was due primarily to a scheduling snafu—doublebooked with the 2012 EMP—I think the ASA’s is perhaps due to the beginnings of a sea change (a new wave?)  in sound studies.  It is certainly not attributable to a lack of interest or scholarship—the emails I get for Sounding Out! alone can attest to growing numbers of truly enthusiastic scholars working on sound and listening—therefore, I put forth that sound studies is entering a moment of reflection. It is no longer enough to breathlessly sound out new sonic terrain; we are moving beyond the period when sound alone could be the binding theme in a conference panel.  The work is getting more nuanced, robust sub-fields are developing—voice studies, for example—vocabularies are becoming shared, and more than ever, scholars are engaging with each other’s work on a deeper level, complicating and texturing the just-established histories, narratives, and canons of the field. Whereas Michele Hilmes’s foundational 2005 review essay in American Quarterly “Is there a Thing Called Sound Culture Studies? And Does it Matter?” noted that “various venues of academic work on sound phenomena so rarely speak to or take heed of each other” (252), I noted no fewer than twelve sound-related roundtables at #ASA2012 where scholars will be doing the difficult-but-rewarding work of acknowledging conflicts, hashing out shared interests, and forging what comes next.  Please take good notes, sound studies folks, because ASA has enacted an official ban on recording:

The papers and commentaries presented during this meeting are intended solely for the hearing of those present and should not be tape-recorded, copied, or otherwise reproduced without the consent of the authors. Recording, copying, or reproducing a paper/presentation without the consent of the author(s) may be a violation of common law copyright and may result in legal difficulties for the person recording, copying, or reproducing (ASA Program PDF, 17).

Unfortunately, this means that the 2012 sound roundtables will be one-time-only, be-there-or-be-square affairs.  But as we know from so much research in our vibrant field, even while the vocal grains and tones will fade away into the air of San Juan, these unscripted scholarly performances can’t help but have lasting reverberations.

The Liner Notes for the ASA Sound Studies Caucus “Cassette” Flyer.  This and Featured Image by Frank Bridges, fbridges@eden.rutgers.edu

Scroll down for the sound-related conference listings.  For the virtual experience, look for my live tweets via our Facebook and Twitter pages, Liana Silva’s live tweets (@literarychica) or on the official ASA backchannel: #ASA2012. Please comment to let SO! know what you think–both before and after ASA 2012.  Finally, If I somehow missed you or your panel in this round up, please let me know!: jsa@soundingoutblog.com

Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman is co-founder, Editor-in-Chief and Guest Posts Editor for Sounding Out! She is also Assistant Professor of English at Binghamton University and a former Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University (2011-2012).

Jump to THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2012
Jump to FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2012
Jump to SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2012
Jump to SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2012

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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2012

THURSDAY, November 15, 2012

10:00 am – 11:45 am

 

007. Crimson and Clover: Hope and Dread in the Musical Countercultures of the 1960s

 Puerto Rico Convention Center 102C

CHAIR:  Eric Avila, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

PAPERS: Rachel Rubin, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA), “I Think That Maybe I’m Dreaming: Music, Counterculture, and the Renaissance Pleasure Faire”

Andrew Green Hannon, Yale University (CT), “Huey Digs Bob Dylan: The Black Panthers, Highway 61 Revisited, and Making Revolutionary Meaning”

Jeffrey Melnick, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA), “The Ballad of Terry Melcher: Famous and Rising Sons in the LA Counterculture”

Will Spires, Santa Rosa Junior College (CA), “The Musical Holdouts of Colby Street: Formation and Legacy of an Old Time Music Community”

COMMENT:  Eric Avila, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Shane Vogel, Indiana University–Bloomington (IN), “Being a Fad: Black Performance and the Calypso Craze,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

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12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

031. Invisible Structures and the Experience of Music

 Puerto Rico Convention Center 103B

 CHAIR:  Lisa Brawley, Vassar College (NY)

PAPERS: Carlo Rotella, Boston College (MA), “The Home of the Blues”

Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama, Birmingham (AL), “Structuring the Eclectic: Radio and Entertainment Formats (Not Genres)”

 Hua Hsu, Vassar College (NY), “Sounds of Confusion: H. T. Tsiang and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Protest Music”

COMMENT:  Lisa Brawley, Vassar College (NY)

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 037. Blogging as Public Pedagogy: A Roundtable with GayProf, Historiann, Roxie, and Tenured Radical

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202B

CHAIR:  Martha Nell Smith, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

PANELISTS:  Marilee Lindemann, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

Ann Little, Colorado State University (CO)

 Anthony Mora, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI)

Claire Bond Potter, New School University (NY)

Martha Nell Smith, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

 

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Jack Hamilton, Harvard University (MA), “House Burning Down: Jimi Hendrix, Race, and the Limits of Sixties Music,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, University of Pennsylvania (PA), “Feeling Colors and Seeing Speech: Black Women’s Choreopoetic Diasporas of Difference,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209C

 

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Nadja Millner-Larsen, “Black Synaesthesia: The Anarcho-Aesthetics of Black Mask,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104B

Mary Beltrán, University of Texas, Austin (TX), “Blacking Up for Laughs: Televisual Blackface and ‘Post-Racial’ Cultural Memory,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 208B

 

 4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

 077. Blackness and the Sacred Performative

 Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

CHAIR:  Michelle D. Commander, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (TN)

PAPERS: Amey Victoria Adkins, Duke University (NC), “‘Ain’t I A Woman’: Black Madonnas, Mammys, and the Performative Aesthetics of Darkness”

 Ashon Crawley, Duke University (NC), “Breathing Towards Lynching Critique: Whooping in Black Pentecostal Praying and Preaching”

 Terrion L. Williamson, Michigan State University (MI), “Black Sacred Dance and the Reverberations of Christian Sexuality”

COMMENT:  Johari Jabir, University of Illinois, Chicago (IL)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Molly McGlennen, Vassar College (NY), “Re-imagining “Domestic Dependency”: The Transnational Motivations of Rebecca Belmore’s Sound Performances,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209C

 

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Memorial to Salsa Composer Catalino (Tite) Curet Alonso (1926-2003) in the Plaza de Armas, Image by Flickr User roger4336

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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2012

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2012

8:00 am – 9:45 am

 105. Mixtape Logics: Listening to Empire and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104B

CHAIR: Matthew Carrillo-Vincent, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Priya Jha, University of Redlands (CA)

Van Truong, Yale University (CT)

Chris Nielsen, University of Pittsburgh (PA)

COMMENT: Joshua Guild, Princeton University (NJ)

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108. Caucus: Digital Humanities: What Can the Digital Humanities Bring to American Studies, and Vice Versa?

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Susan Garfinkel, Library of Congress (DC)

PANELISTS: Natalia Cecire, Yale University (CT)

Alex Gil, University of Virginia (VA)

Matthew K. Gold, City University of New York, Graduate School (NY)

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Modern Language Association (NY)

Lauren Klein, Georgia Institute of Technology (GA)

Miriam Posner, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

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117. Performance as Power and Critique: Social Change in African Diasporic Performance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 208C

CHAIR: Jennifer Devere Brody, Stanford University (CA)

PAPERS: Tisha Brooks, Tufts University (MA) ,“Performing Power and Privilege: The Spiritual Itinerant Practice of Amanda Berry Smith”

Shanesha R. F. Brooks-Tatum, Interdenominational Theological Center (GA), “Sonic Bridges: Conversion Narratives in Diasporic Christian Hip-Hop Performance”

Tanya Saunders, Lehigh University (PA), “Global Hip Hop, Black Feminism, and the Queer of Color Critique: An Analysis of Women-Centered Arts-Based Activism in Cuba and Brazil”

Lori Lynne Brooks, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI), “It’s Empire Time!: Black Popular Performance and the Temporality of Imperialism”

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

125. The Talking Cure for Empire? Oral History and Testimonio in the Twenty-first Century

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102B

CHAIR: Theresa Delgadillo, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH)

PANELISTS: Tami Albin, University of Kansas (KS)

Maylei Blackwell, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

Thuy Vo Dang, University of California, Irvine (CA)

Theresa Delgadillo, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH)

Linda Garcia Merchant, Artist

Joseph Rodríguez, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (WI)

Sonia Saldívar-Hull, University of Texas, San Antonio (TX)

Janet Weaver, University of Iowa (IA)

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127. ASA Program Committee: Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Speculation, Futurity, New Materialisms

Puerto Rico Convention Center 103A

CHAIR: Tavia Nyong’o, New York University (NY)

PANELISTS: Jayna Brown, University of California, Riverside (CA)

Tavia Nyong’o, New York University (NY)

Dana Luciano, Georgetown University (DC)

José Esteban Muñoz, New York University (NY)

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131. Caucus: Science and Technology: What is the Future of Technology in American Studies?: A Roundtable

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104C

CHAIR: Jason Weems, University of California, Riverside (CA)

PANELISTS: Carolyn de la Pena, University of California, Davis (CA)

Lisa Nakamura, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (IL)

Joshua Shannon, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

Elena Razlogova, Concordia University (Canada)

Joel Dinerstein, Tulane University (LA)

COMMENT: Jason Weems, University of California, Riverside (CA)

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133. Caucus: Digital Humanities: Digital Shorts: New Platforms of Knowledge Production and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: A. Joan Saab, University of Rochester (NY)

PANELISTS: Susan Smulyan, Brown University (RI)

Stewart Varner, Emory University (GA)

A. Joan Saab, University of Rochester (NY)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Thomas George Sowders, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge (LA), Puerto Rico Convention Center 208C, “Martin Delany’s Sonic Transnationalism: Genres of Poetry and Sound in Blake; or, the Huts of America

 12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

146. Ask Your Mama: The Sound(ed) Poetics and Politics of Black Feminist Internationalism

Puerto Rico Convention Center 101A

CHAIR: Farah Griffin, Columbia University (NY)

PAPERS: Daphne Ann Brooks, Princeton University (NJ), “‘A Woman is a Sometime Thing’: Leontyne and Sarah’s Sonic Temporalities’

Salamishah Tillet, University of Pennsylvania (PA), “Hush and Listen: Mama Africa and Nina Simone’s Global Civil Rights Sound”

Imani Perry, Princeton University (NJ), “Sounding Like a Movement: The Advance of Miriam Makeba’s Retreat Song”

COMMENT: Farah Griffin, Columbia University (NY)

12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

168. Business Meeting of the Digital Humanities Caucus

Puerto Rico Convention Center Foyer A

 

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

 182. ASA Committee on Graduate Education: Digital Dimensions of Graduate Education in American Studies (co-sponsored by the Digital Humanities Caucus and ASA Students’ Committee)

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Robert W. Snyder, Rutgers University, Newark (NJ)

PANELISTS: Clarissa J. Ceglio, Brown University (RI)

Douglas Lambert, State University of New York, Buffalo (NY)

Sharon Leon, George Mason University (VA)

John Carlos Rowe, University of Southern California (CA)

Stephen Brier, City University of New York, Graduate School (NY)

 

187. Subjectivity and Sound: Rethinking Genre in Chicano/a Music

Puerto Rico Convention Center 208A

CHAIR: Tyina Steptoe, University of Washington, Seattle (WA)

PANELISTS: Anthony Macias, University of California, Riverside (CA)

Marie Miranda, University of Texas, San Antonio (TX)

Michelle Habell-Pallan, University of Washington, Seattle (WA)

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Marisol Negrón, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA) “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Fania Records, Intellectual Property Rights, and Royalties,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104B

Isabel Porras, University of California, Davis (CA) “Hypersexual and Excessive: Carmen Miranda and Sofia Vergara and Performing Latinidad,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 203

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

208. Caucus: Sound Studies: Resisting Silences: Re-sounding Race, Gender, and Empire

Puerto Rico Convention Center 204

CHAIR: Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas (KS)

PAPERS: Marci McMahon, University of Texas, Pan American (TX), “Tanya Saracho’s El Nogalar: Staging Soundscapes of Silence and Imperialism”

Genevieve Yue, University of Southern California (CA), “Technics of Female Silence”

Jennifer Lynn Stoever-Ackerman, State University of New York, Binghamton (NY), “‘Just Be Quiet Pu-leeze’: New York’s Black Press Fights the Postwar ‘Campaign Against Noise’

COMMENT: Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas (KS)

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213. I’m a MuthaFking Monster: Alter Egos, New Media, and Black/Queer Performativity

Puerto Rico Convention Center 209B

CHAIR: Gabriel Peoples, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

PAPERS: Treva Lindsey, University of Missouri, Columbia (MO), “I Am… Sasha Fierce: Resistive Alterity and African American Respectability Politics”

Uri McMillan, University of California, Los Angeles (CA), “Gone Campin’: The Campy Paradox of Nicki Minaj”

Kismet Nunez / Jessica Marie Johnson, University of Maryland, College Park (MD), “On Alter Egos and Infinite Literacies, Part 2 (An #AntiJemimas Imperative)”

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Omi/Joni Jones, University of Texas, Austin (TX); Sharon Bridgforth, DePaul University (IL), “Conjuring Jazz”

Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, San Juan, Puerto Rico, by Flickr User Jorge Rodriquez

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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2012

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2012

 8:00 am – 9:45 am

237. Empires of Funk: U.S. Colonialism, Filipina/o Resistance, and Hip Hop

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Victor Hugo Viesca, California State University, Los Angeles (CA)

PAPERS: Mark Villegas, University of California, Irvine (CA), “From Indios to Morenos: Exploring the Poetics and Memory of Postcolonial Racial Positioning”

Lorenzo Perillo, University of California, Los Angeles (CA), “Maganda at Malakas: Gendered Choreographies in Manila”

Roderick Labrador, University of Hawai‘i, Manoa, (HI) “Agitation Propaganda: Toward a Filipina/o Revolutionary Internationalism”

COMMENT: Brian Chung, University of Notre Dame (IN)

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242. Aesthetics in the Belly of the Beast: Reading American Carceral Art

Puerto Rico Convention Center 208A

CHAIR: Doran Larson, Hamilton College (NY)

PAPERS: Alessandro Porco, State University of New York, Buffalo (NY), “The ‘And’ After Every Sentence: Hip-Hop, Incarceration, and Creativity”

Imani Kai Johnson, New York University (NY), “B-Boying Behind Bars: A Profile of Batch from The Bronx Boys Rocking Crew”

Marcella Runell Hall, New York University (NY), “Assessment Data on ‘Lyrics from Lockdown,’”

COMMENT: Doran Larson, Hamilton College (NY)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Sarah Perkins, Stanford University (CA), “‘Bound to trabble’: The Circulation of ‘Dixie,’ 1880–1910,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 201A

 Nicholas Bauch, California State University, Los Angeles (CA), “Practicing Geography Through Art Performance: Urban Interventions and the Renaissance of the Vernacular,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209B

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

263. ASA Program Committee: Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Language Ideologies, Spanish in the U.S., and Latinidad

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202B

CHAIR: Ana Celia Zentella, University of California, San Diego (CA)

PAPERS: Lourdes Maria Torres, DePaul University (IL), “Spanish in Chicago: Dialects in Contact”

Jonathan Daniel Rosa, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MA), “Racializing Language, Regimenting Latinidad:Latina/o Ethnolinguistic Emblems in Diasporic Perspective”

Lillian Gorman, University of Illinois, Chicago (IL). “The (New) Mexican Familia: Ethnolinguistic Contact Zones in Northern New Mexico”

COMMENT: Ana Celia Zentella, University of California, San Diego (CA)

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12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

278. Black Independent Cinema Before and After Pariah

Puerto Rico Convention Center 101B

CHAIR: Kara Keeling, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Jennifer DeClue, University of Southern California (CA)

Yvonne Welbon, Bennett College (NC)

Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, Northwestern University (IL)

Roya Z. Rastegar, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

Kara Keeling, University of Southern California (CA)

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287. West Side Story: A Roundtable Discussion

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Julia Foulkes, New School University (NY)

PANELISTS: Julia Foulkes, New School University (NY)

Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez, Mount Holyoke College (MA)

Deborah Paredez, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

Elizabeth Wells, Mt. Allison University (Canada)

Brian Eugenio Herrera, Princeton University (NJ)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Rashida K. Braggs, Williams College (MA), “From Limited to Alternate Citizenship: How Image and Song Perform Historical Resistance in Bayou,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 208A

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2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

2nd Annual Sound Studies Meet and Greet! Co-Sponsored by the ASA Sound Studies Caucus and Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog

The District Bar
SHERATON PUERTO RICO HOTEL & CASINO
200 Convention Center Boulevard, San Juan, PR 00907
Cash Bar
Appetizers! Drink Specials! VIP area!

303. Musical Movements

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102B

CHAIR: Ulrich Adelt, University of Wyoming (WY)

PAPERS: John Cline, University of Texas, Austin (TX), “Familiar Islands: The U.S., the Bahamas, and the Permeable Boundaries of ‘Folk’ Music”

Mikiko Tachi, Chiba University (Japan), “Folk Music and the Racial Imaginary in the U.S. and Japan”

Shana Goldin-Perschbacher, Stanford University (CA), “‘I need another world’: Queer Singer-Songwriters in Transnational Collaboration Post-9/11”

COMMENT: Ulrich Adelt, University of Wyoming (WY)

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314. Re-thinking Red, Yellow, Black, and Chicana/o Power through Oral History

Puerto Rico Convention Center 204

CHAIR: Rhonda Williams, Case Western Reserve University(OH)

PAPERS: Lorena Oropeza, University of California, Davis (CA), “He Said, She Said, But Who’s Right?: Oral History Unlocks Anti-Colonialism in 1960s New Mexico”

May Fu, University of San Diego (CA), “Oral History and the Asian American Radical Tradition”

Elizabeth Castle, University of South Dakota (SD), “Talking Back: Native Women’s Oral Histories in the Red Power Movement”

Lauren Araiza, Denison University (OH), “Oral Histories and Multiracial Coalitions in the UFW and the Black Freedom Struggle”

COMMENT: Rhonda Williams, Case Western Reserve University, (OH)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Rachel Donaldson, Vanderbilt University (TN), “Seeking the ‘Sensual’  and the ‘Significant’: Alan Lomax in Haiti”

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4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

325. Chavela Vargas, La Bamba, and Morrissey: Mapping Queer Musical Diasporas and Desires

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102A

CHAIR: Stacy Macias, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

PAPERS: J. Frank Galarte, University of Arizona (AZ), “‘Que soy muy canalla dice la gente’: The Pleasure of Queer Love, Desire, and Dolor in Chavela Vargas’ Repertoire”

Micaela Díaz-Sánchez, Mount Holyoke College (MA), “Yo también quiero bailar la bamba”: The Policing of Gender in the Chicana/o Son Jarocho Diaspora”

Melissa Hidalgo, Pitzer College (CA), “Complicated Colonial Legacies: Mapping the Queer Chicano Contours of Morrissey’s Los Angeles Fanscape in “Gay Vatos in Love”

COMMENT: Stacy Macias, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

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326. Marginal Digital Knowledges: A Workshop on Technology, Transformation, and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102B

CHAIR: Tara McPherson, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Simone A. Browne, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

Fiona Barnett, Duke University (NC)

Amanda Phillips, University of California, Santa Barbara (CA)

Tanner Higgin, University of California, Riverside (CA)

Moya Bailey, Emory University (GA)

Alexis Lothian, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (PA)

 

327. Caucus: Sound Studies: Sound and the State: The Politics of Acoustic Power

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102C

CHAIR: Jonathan Sterne, McGill University (Canada)

PAPERS: David Suisman, University of Delaware (DE), “Shock Wave Politics: The Battle Over Sonic Booms”

Peter Tschirhart, University of Virginia (VA), “Part 150 ‘Noise Exposure Maps’ and the Closing of the Acoustic Commons”

COMMENT: Mara Mills, New York University (NY)

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329. Between Island and Diaspora: Locating, Creating, and Performing Afro–Puerto Rican Bomba

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

MODERATOR: Tamara Roberts, University of California, Berkeley (CA)

This roundtable brings together bomba practitioners, cultural workers, and scholars from Puerto Rico and California. Rafael Maya and Pablo Luis Rivera will discuss their work as the founders of Proyecto Unión and Restauración Cultural. Sarazeta Ragazzi, Tamara Roberts, and Denise Solis will detail their work in the all-women’s performance ensemble Las Bomberas de la Bahia (San Francisco Bay Area). And Jade Power Sotomayor will extend the discussion of cross-cultural connections byconsidering the large Chicano participation in the form in the U.S., underscoring the ways that Latinidad and more specifically, Afro-Latinidad are corporeally articulated through this embodied practice.

Congas, Image courtesy of Flickr User Richard Alexander Caraballo

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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2012

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2012

8:00 am – 9:45 am

 365. Doing Disciplinarity: Puerto Rican Studies is/as/withAmerican Studies

Puerto Rico Convention Center 204

CHAIR: Marta S. Rivera Monclova, Framingham State College (MA)

PANELISTS: Marta S. Rivera Monclova, Framingham State College (MA)

Liana Marie Silva, State University of New York, Binghamton (NY)

Leonardo L. Flores Feliciano, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (PR)

Sara Poggio, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (MD)

 

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Nadia Ellis, University of California, Berkeley (CA), “Dancehall’s Urban Possessions,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 101A

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

377. Jazz and the Voices of Empire and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102A

CHAIR: John Gennari, University of Vermont (VT)

PAPERS: Daniel Stein, University of Goettingen (Germany), “Onkel Satchmo Behind the Iron Curtain: The Politics of Louis Armstrong’s Visit to East Germany”

Elliott H. Powell, New York University (NY), “Solidarity in Sound: John Coltrane, Indian Music, and Global Freedom Struggles”

Matthew B. Karush, George Mason University (VA), “Transnational Routes: Argentine Encounters with Jazz, 1959–1972”

COMMENT: John Gennari, University of Vermont (VT)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Daphne Lamothe, Smith College (MA), “Trauma, Silence, and the Language of Resistance in Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying”

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12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

 Imani D. Owens, Columbia University (NY), “The Politics of Sound: Race, Space, and Cuban Identity in the Poetry of Nicolás Guillén,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209A

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2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

420. Terrains of Modernity, Aural Research, and Critique

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104C

CHAIR: Michele Hilmes, University of Wisconsin, Madison (WI)

PAPERS: Art Blake, Ryerson University (Canada), “John Cage’s Voice and New York’s Postwar Urban Sensorium”

Derek Vaillant, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI), “The Power of Piaf: Racial Formation and Nostalgia in Postwar U.S.-France Aural Culture”

Jason Loviglio, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (MD), “Radio Localism 2.0”

Benjamin Aslinger, Bentley College (MA), “Listening In to Web 2.0: Subjectivity, Alterity, and Power”

COMMENT: Michele Hilmes, University of Wisconsin, Madison (WI)

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423. Los Nombres: Puerto Rican Popular Music in Lorain, Ohio

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202C

CHAIR: Petra R. Rivera-Rideau, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA)

PANELISTS: Petra R. Rivera-Rideau, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA)

Eugene Rivera, Jr., Independent Scholar

José Pepe Rivera, Sr., Artist

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Mike Amezcua, Northwestern University (IL), “Brown Bop: Mexican American Jazzmen, Race, and the Quest for a Transnational Jazz Movement”

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Image courtesy of Ricymar Fine Art Photography

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